A soaked Rock Pile at kickoff didn’t slow down the Rockies one bit as Plymouth rushed for 396 yards in a 53-14 win Friday night. But it was how Plymouth finished which burned Wawasee just as badly.
More than in control with a 40-14 lead in the fourth quarter, Plymouth elected to pass on three occasions, one on a fourth and long which was completed for a first down. Plymouth running back Sam Stevens would then punch the ball in for a 47-13 lead.
After Wawasee stalled on its next possession, one in which the visiting sideline was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct, Plymouth decided to throw a bomb which was completed. Then coach John Barron elected to throw a 23-yard pass for a touchdown to Elliott Eads, infuriating the Wawasee sideline. A handful of personal foul penalties on both sides late in the game left a bitter taste in several mouths afterwards.
“There are certain things…” began a very agitated Wawasee head coach Tom Wogomon, choosing his words carefully. A description of a hit on his quarterback Gage Reinhard in the fourth quarter that drew the sideline penalty led into, “It wasn’t that he took the hit, but he took the hit leading with the head on our quarterback. It’s just not necessary. To be honest, when you get to a game that’s out of reach like that, I don’t understand that.”
While the chippy play may not have directly effected the scoreboard, Plymouth had long since decided the fate of the two teams with a barrage of well-executed runs in the first half.
Plymouth rumbled for 303 yards on the ground in the first half, led by the 114 yards and four touchdowns by Justin Drudge, who hit huge holes on the offensive line and worked the corners in equal impression. Stevens also had a big half, rushing for 99 yards and a score.
For the game, Stevens finished with a game-high 123 yards and Drudge didn’t have a carry in the second half. Quarterback Ike Kastner also did a lot of damage in the option offense, rushing for 89 yards and a score. Kastner also completed five passes for 65 yards.
The Rockies (4-2, 3-1 NLC), after losing a fumble on its first possession, scored on its next five possessions.
“We said we were going to take care of the dive and the quarterback, and we did early on,” Wogomon said of defending Plymouth’s option attack. “We put two guys on the pitch. It was just a matter of coming up…that’s the thing about playing a good option like Plymouth does. It is hard to get everything covered. They do a nice job of figuring out of where to hit you at and where to expose.”
Wawasee (2-4, 1-3 NLC), still dealing with a rash of injuries, were not fluent on the offensive side of the ball either. The Warriors gained just 181 yards on the night, 145 of those in the air. The only offensive touchdown the Warriors scored was a 21-yard touchdown pass to Clayton Cook from Reinhard. Cook also briefly electrified the Wawasee sideline with a 92-yard kickoff return to cut the Plymouth lead to 20-7. But Plymouth returned the ensuing kickoff to the Wawasee 47, which concluded with a 13-yard touchdown by Drudge.
The rushing display put on by Plymouth will certainly raise questions in the Wawasee film room this week as the Warriors will begin to focus on the big rivalry with Warsaw next week. Featuring back Tristan McClone, one of the leading rushers in the state averaging 194 yards per game after Warsaw’s 17-0 win over Goshen Friday, Wogomon’s defense will have to dig deep if it wants to keep the Tigers (5-1, 4-0 NLC) from spoiling homecoming.
“We’re a young football team, not really by choice, but by attrition where we’re at and that’s a fact,” Wogomon said. “We are just having a difficult time playing up that physicality level we need to in the NLC.
“This group here, we just have to continue to come downhill and play. We know we are going to be able to run better than what we did. It didn’t work out that way. We are just a team that is still looking for an identity.”